Tag: Qur’an

BlogRamadan 2018Religion

Ramadan 1439/2018: Black Muslims Reflect on the Qur’an – Juz’ 30

By Salihah Aakil

In the morning some of them won’t be here. Some of them will be somewhere between consciousness and dreaming, some of them will be well on their way to a better place and some, some will be long gone. In the morning none of us will cry because they moved on and we will see them again some day,

the sky won’t turn red when the sun sets some day.

So you and I hold out hope.

In the morning some of them will have to leave, some of them have a people to protect and they’ll promise to remember us. And with our hands on our hearts we swear to remember that they honor every promise.

In the morning some of us will die here but we’ll remember that some of our people learned to fly when the angel of death lent them it’s wings.

That’s when they were truly free.

Exploring the things we could only comprehend as stars but turned out to be shining miracles. Shimmering, spinning, glowing, shining miracles, and some of us will dance the way constellations do.

In the morning some of us will rise with the sun to greet the Lord and the dawn as it comes and we won’t forget how much we love morning time.

 

This poem was, in part, inspired by the first ayat of Surah Falaq that says,

“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn”

I chose to base this poem around the phrase “In the morning” because in Surah Falaq Allah tells us to seek refuge in Him as the Creator of the sun and light. The Creator of the day that He intended for us to worship Him in. In Surah Falaq Allah also tells us to seek protection from the night and the evil He created in it and yet there is still hope in Him; and what He has made for us. I tried to mimic the hope and warning that is shown in Surah Falaq in this poem, as well as depict an image of faithful people who will always believe.

 

 

Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!

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Salihah Aakil is a 15 year old, African American Muslim, Writer, Artist, and co-founder of Salvage, a non profit organization. She is a two time DC Youth Poet Laureate finalist and an outspoken advocate for social justice. She found writing at the age of ten and hasn’t stopped using it, words are her weapon, wonder, and shelter.

BlogRamadan 2018Religion

Ramadan 1439/2018 Black Muslims Reflect on the Qu’ran – Juz’ 29

By Rufus and Jenny Triplett

 

Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!

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unnamed.pngRufus & Jenny Triplett are co-authors of the international best-selling book, Surviving Marriage in the 21st Century, speakers, media hosts and personalities. They’ve been married for over 28 years. You can find our more at www.rufusandjennytriplett.com

 

BlogRamadan 2018Religion

Ramadan 1439/2018: Black Muslims Reflect on the Quran—Juz’ 28

By Alia J. Bilal

In the name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Upon reviewing the 28 juz’ (58:1–66:12), three themes occurred to me. The first revolves around the forces that gather to conspire against groups of people and the Divine response to those plans; the second considers those who align themselves with those who secretly (or not-so-secretly) oppose our community; and the third reminds us of God’s power over all people, plots and plans.

The first chapter in Juz 28, Surah al-Mujadilah (58), includes four consecutive verses about holding secret meetings. As a community organizer, I think about all of the secret meetings that take place on a daily basis that decide the fates of entire communities, either because the meetings’ decision makers seek to control (or destroy) those communities or because the people in those communities are deemed unfit to make suitable decisions for themselves. These meetings occur in boardrooms and in back alleys, in state capitals and police departments, in hushed whispers or announced with the veneer of progress. I suppose it is comforting to know that The Almighty has already forewarned us of this type of treachery and that He has placed Himself in the equation where these meetings are concerned

There is no secret conversation between three people where He is not the fourth, nor between five where He is not the sixth, nor between less or more than that without Him being with them, wherever they may be — 58:7.

I read Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince for the first time in 2017. Like many people, before reading it, I only assumed from context clues that Machiavelli was an evil, scheming, conniving man, for that’s what we had always understood the term “Machiavellian” to mean. I now think of the author of the famed (or infamous) series of political maxims as akin to many of the leaders of our “free world” today. His calm, self-possessed, even-keeled advice about manipulating and controlling the masses seems to be the playbook for many of our seemingly stable-minded politicians and leaders today. Moreover, the secret meetings they undoubtedly have helped to create or maintain policies that continue to marginalize, denigrate and criminalize our most vulnerable communities.

But [God] knows what is hidden as well as what is in the open…” (59:22), and He reminds us that as long as we organizers, activists, creatives and scholars hold our secret meetings in a way that is good and mindful [of God] (58:9), and put our trust in Him, the other Satanic conversations cannot harm us in the least (58:10).

And God has written, ‘I shall most certainly win, I and My messengers.’ God is powerful and almighty” (58:21).

The second theme became evident after reading the following from Surah al-Mumtahanah:

You who believe, do not take My enemies and yours as your allies, showing them friendship when they have rejected the truth you have received, and have driven you and the Messenger out simply because you believe in God, your Lord… — 60:1

At a time when we who are working to uphold our own human dignity and the dignity of other marginalized people across the world are confronted by those who profess to speak for us, and yet align themselves with those who not only disparage and vilify us, but also actively work to eviscerate our humanity, this theme hits all too hard. Lest anyone reading mistake this statement as an indictment on forming alliances across ethnic, religious, geographic or socio-economic lines — don’t. For we are reminded that God,

does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just. 60:8

What this brings to mind is the concern that too many Muslims and people of conscience have allowed themselves to pander to those in power in a futile effort to be seen as “one of the good ones.” The Almighty warns us against giving loyalty to people with whom God is angry (58:14).

But Muslims should be people that call up as well as call out, and I firmly believe that we will get nothing and nowhere without the joint effort of all people of God and conscience. When facing individuals and institutions committed to stripping us of our humanity, we are reminded that Fear of you [believers] is more intense in their hearts than fear of God because they are people devoid of understanding.” The Powers that be appear indomitable and all the more so because the network of dark forces that create and perpetuate racist and unjust systems seem so inextricably linked. But God, yet again, declares, Even united they would never fight you…you think they are united but their hearts are divided because they are people devoid of reason…” (59:14).

One of the things I’ve been working on for the last couple of years has been allowing myself to truly be content with God’s decree. The final theme of being patient with God’s qadr and might in this juz took that point home. The Qur’an constantly beseeches us to be people who think, ponder, and reflect. As an organizer, trying to work myself out of a job with the full knowledge that I never could, I have recently found myself asking questions that have no easy answers. What kind of world was I born into? How does one understand the evil in this world alongside the Beauty of the Creator? Why has one group of people been made to suffer the brutality and scorn of humanity for so many agonizing centuries? These are just some of the questions I am currently asking myself.

But, again, always, I am reminded in this juz that misfortunes can only happen with God’s permission (64:11).

Again, I am reminded that “…God does not burden any soul with more than He has given it” (65:7).

And that “…power belongs to God…” (63:8). Therefore, the machinations and plans of enemies, the foolish words and dalliances of friends, the wavering of our own hearts and minds all succumb to the reality that God’s infinite Hand lay over every matter and everything.

Though I won’t work myself out of a job, I find comfort in an assurance from the All-Merciful

…Anyone who believes in God and the Last Day should heed this: God will find a way out for those who are mindful of Him, and will provide for them from an unexpected source; God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him… — 65:2–3.

For surely, after hardship, God will bring ease(65:7).

 

I seek refuge in God from my own nafs and from speaking about matters of which I have little knowledge.

 

Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!

Support the Believers Bail Out campaign.  Donate today.

 


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Alia J. Bilal serves as Director of Community Relations at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), where she is responsible for cultivating and maintaining individual donors to sustain and advance IMAN’s social justice work, and engaging other organizations and institutions around strategic programs and initiatives. Ms. Bilal is also a volunteer for Ta’leef Collective Chicago, where she helps people understand the basics of Islamic doctrine and practice, and works to cultivate fellowship among newcomers to the community. A native of Chicago’s South Side, Ms. Bilal graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in International Studies and a concentration in Islamic World Studies. She was an appointee of the Equity Advisory Council of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and a graduate of the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago.

BlogRamadan 2018Religion

Ramadan 1439/2018: Black Muslims Reflect on the Qur’an—Juz’ 27

By Donna Auston

If our vaunted rule of the people does not breed nobler men and women than monarchies have done, it must and will inevitably give place to something better. – Anna Julia Cooper

During the month of Ramadan, many Muslims understand that the heavens are open — that through increased worship and adherence to a set of moral dictates (restraint of the tongue or corralling of physical desires, for example) that we are given the opportunity to approach the Divine. In this blessed season, we take advantage of a unique opportunity to seek nearness to Allah through heightened attention to acts of piety, hoping that through our fasting and prayer that we might be granted clemency when we are faced with the inevitable reckoning with the One to whom we all must return. This season is often approached as a much-needed space for personal introspection, an increase in personal worship, all of which are essential spiritual practices. But what happens when we allow for the possibilities that come with the acknowledgement that morality is constituted in relationship with the social — that our understanding and subsequent interface with the Divine presence is only possible through the filter of our particular on-the-ground reality? That our conceptions and perceptions of God, our relationship with our Creator, and what we ultimately understand about what we are expected to do in response to the Divine summons are all shaped to some extent by our experiences in the world?

Since becoming Muslim over 25 years ago, I have heard Muslims repeatedly make the attempt to disavow the role of culture in the implementation of Islam, to proclaim that “Islam is relevant in all times and places”— these proclamations serving to assure believers that they are adhering to the Will that exists above all petty human entanglements and nafsi aspirations. While it is undoubtedly true that Allah is Timeless, not subject to the constraints of space and place and His message to humankind is relevant and necessary across the spans of history and geography, human beings are never  free of such things. Therefore, every attempt to understand and approach the Divine is subject to our limitations. Our choices here are but two — we live in denial of this fact to detrimental effect; or we acknowledge it, attempt to manage it, and most important, make the necessary adjustments to it when we realize that it has begun to interfere with our attempts to connect with Allah.

The surahs contained in Juz’ 27 (51:31–57:29), with one exception (i.e., Surah Hadid), emerge out of the particular social context of the early Makkan portion of the prophetic mission. It is a social context that many of us living as a racial and religious minority can relate to: we are few in number, our spiritual expressions are not necessarily mainstream and interactions with representatives of the status quo can run the gamut from friendly to violently hostile. Given that reality, many of the themes contained in this section focus on the absolute essentials: the importance of tawhid, or the Oneness of God as the foundation for all spiritual works, reminders about the hereafter that render those often abstract realities into matters of tangible concern, reminders about the long history of prophetic engagement with their respective societies — the expansion of notions of morality from the realm of the private to being matters of public and social concern.

Here “worship” does not simply indicate a regimen of individual prayer or reflection, but it also encompasses the implementation of public justice: where people are able to live in safety and security, where people are not marginalized or treated as less than human on the basis of personal or social identity, where everyone has access to adequate food, shelter, and other necessary resources they need to survive and thrive, where there is clean drinking water and the earth is not subject to abuse. None of these realities are a given. Instead, they require deliberate intention, continued work and sustained vigilance to be effected — a spiritual orientation that recognizes these matters as moral imperatives, and therefore incorporates a holistic approach to worship that does not compromise with social injustice under the guise of preserving a limited and narrow conception of personal morality: “Verily, human beings will have nothing save that which they strive for” (53:39).

Here, we are reminded of the missions of the Prophets Ibrahim, Nuh, Salih and others, peace be upon them, and their interactions with their respective peoples. We are also instructed concerning some of the early dialogue between the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, with the leaders of the Quraysh. There are many lessons in these exchanges — one worth highlighting brings us back to the epigraph that began this reflection and the importance of recognizing the influence of the social on human understandings of the nature and will of the Divine. In Surah Najm, Allah challenges the polytheists of the Quraysh about their theology,:

Have you considered (the vernacular deities) Al-Lat, and Al-‘Uzza, and the third, Manat? Do you ascribe sons to yourselves, and for (Allah), daughters? This is indeed an unjust division. — 53:19–22

This is not, as it may seem superficially, a statement from the Divine sanctioning the inferior position of girls; for we believe as a matter of creed that Allah has no gender — period. Rather, we have here a direct challenge to a misogynistic status quo, whereby women and girls were not valued in the everyday realm of the social — by (male) human beings who prized male children for themselves as the ultimate status symbol and subsequently projected this disdain for and devaluation of women onto their theological and cosmological frameworks. This exchange is also not here simply so that Muslims can pat ourselves on the back and acquit ourselves of such shortcomings — for if we do not take social justice seriously as an essential moral concern — our interpretations of scripture will consequently be infected with these virulent, debilitating ideologies. “Islam,” then, is in danger of becoming a repository for all manner of social injustice. Our holy men (for they are, more often than not, men), our shaykhs, our religious leaders will become instruments of hegemony rather than healing, and we will all suffer the consequences. According to Dr. Cooper, our “vaunted rule of the people will not produce human beings any nobler than the monarchies” and dictatorships have done — words of insight and wisdom gleaned from someone whose social location as a Black woman born into U.S. enslavement shaped the stubborn perception that she was by virtue of her “natural” constitution incapable of delivering either. (Dr. Cooper proved everyone wrong in 1924 by becoming only the fourth African American woman to earn a Ph.D.)

If this seems far-fetched, if we stubbornly cling to the notion that “Islam” is immune to the nitty-gritty, street-level influences of everyday sociopolitics, we need look no further than much of the contemporary discourse in American Muslim communities that, because of its own sociopolitical investments, is slow to forbid the evil of racism, sluggish and lethargic in enjoining the good of gender justice, or that dismisses the efforts of Muslim social justice activists (many of whom, not coincidentally, are Black women) as inherently secular endeavors that have no grounding in an “Islamic” moral framework. Fourteen hundred years later, the anti-Blackness that Sayyiduna Bilal sometimes encountered is still alive and well, we still do not value women, and many in our communities are still behaving like the leaders of the Thamud people described in Surah al-Qamar: 24 (whose hallmark crime was cruelty and violence to non-human life), where the basis for not heeding the message had everything to do with the socially ingrained biases against the person of the messenger.

Verily we have sent our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that human beings may conduct themselves with equity. — 57:25

 

 

 

Sapelo Square is proud to support Believers Bail Out, a community-led effort to bail out Muslims in pretrial incarceration. During these last ten days of Ramadan give what you can to restore justice and free our people. Donate and join us on the steep road!

Support the Believers Bail Out campaign.  Donate today.

 


 

unnamedDonna Auston is a doctoral candidate in the department of anthropology at Rutgers University. Her dissertation is an ethnography of Black Muslims and spiritual protest in the Black Lives Matter era. She writes and speaks regularly on race, gender, Islam, and other topics; she has published at Anthropology News, Religion News Service, Al Jazeera.com, and the Washington Post. You can follow her on Twitter @TinyMuslimah.